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Kathryn Atchison - March 2016

Kathryn Atchison, D.D.S., M.P.H., is professor in the Division of Public Health and Community Dentistry at the UCLA School of Dentistry and at the Department of Health Services, UCLA School of Public Health. At UCLA she also serves as the vice provost for new collaborative initiatives. Her past administrative experience includes serving as vice provost for intellectual property and industry relations and as the School of Dentistry’s associate dean for research & knowledge management. 

She earned her D.D.S. at Marquette University Dental School, Milwaukee, Wis. and her M.P.H. at Boston University, School of Public Health. Atchison’s current NIDCR-funded research with the University of Maryland, College Park, is to examine the association of health literacy and oral health. She has had substantial experience conducting and leading collaborative multidisciplinary, community-based research. She served as a principal investigator (PI or Co-PI) of a HRSA-funded evaluation of the impact of federal support on postgraduate general dental training; an RO1 of an NIH study of dental predictors of osteoporosis, an RO1 to study patient preferences for treatment of mandibular fracture; and an RO1 for an AHCPR four-year study to measure the efficacy and effectiveness of the FDA Guidelines for ordering dental radiographs. 

Atchison has also served as program coordinator for an NIDCR-supported study to examine the physical, psychosocial and economic impact of orofacial injury. This five-year, multidisciplinary study involving the UCLA Schools of Dentistry, Medicine and Public Policy and Social Research, as well as Drew University School of Medicine and Science, was funded through the UCLA/Drew Minority Oral Health Research Center. She has published extensively on outcomes assessment and quality of care issues, such as perceptions of oral health and development and evaluation of psychosocial outcome measures, for which she developed the Geriatric/General Oral Health Assessment Index, which is a much-sought-after measure of determining patient-assessed oral health status.

Since joining in 1986, Atchison has remained an involved AADR/IADR and has served on several Committees. She is the 2008 recipient of the IADR Distinguished Scientist Award in Behavioral Science and Health Services Research. 

What led you to join AADR?
I learned about AADR when I was a Robert Wood Johnson Dental Health Services Research scholar. I was told that being an AADR member was the best way to get integrated into dental research in the US and internationally, and that’s what prompted me to join. 

What is the most valuable benefit of your AADR membership?
The ability to develop mentors and collaborate with other AADR members has been a valuable benefit. Also, when you’re an academic leader—especially at a tier 1 university—you need outside letters of promotion. The people you turn to for those letters are other experts in the field and through my AADR membership I’ve been able to identify these leaders in the field. Having that access is very instrumental to an academic. 

What role has AADR played in your career?
Through AADR, I was able to make my introduction into dental research. I learned who my collaborators and mentors would become and it really gave me access to people around the US who were interested in similar research. It also gave me my first opportunities into dentistry. 

How important has cross-collaboration with other scientific disciplines been to advancing your science? 
I have been able to learn from other scientists through collaborations that I have established. I’ve also been able to help junior scientists and help them with their careers. It has been a pleasure to talk to them each year at the IADR and AADR meetings and learn how they have advanced in their career. 

What would you say to newer AADR members to encourage them to be more engaged in AADR?
I would encourage new members to get involved in their primary IADR Scientific Research Group/Network but to also get involved in a few others. This is an excellent way to expand your network and learn more about people who aren’t in your field of research who can help you and collaborate with you. Working with the members of your Scientific Group/Network will allow you to get a deeper impact of your research. 

What is a message you would give to current dental students to encourage them to pursue a career in dental research?
I was an associate dean of research for six years and I told all of the students they should make time to get involved in dental research because that was going to be the practice of the future for them. Ultimately, what happens in dental research will become dental practice. You want to be part of the change mechanism.


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